When I receive a gift, I am conscious of both the gift and the giver. Gratitude suffuses me. This gratitude often transforms into a wish to give something back to my generous giver. We are conscious of this desire to give back when it comes to people who are givers. Places are givers, too. And we can give back to them. When we do, we become more courageous, more creative—and certainly more grateful! ~ Trebbe Johnson

Here in our feature “Grateful Changemakers,” we celebrate programs and projects that serve as beacons of gratefulness. These efforts elevate the values of grateful living and illuminate their potential to transform both individuals and communities. Join us in appreciating the inspiring and catalyzing contribution these Changemakers offer to shaping a more grateful world.

What sparked the founding/creation of Radical Joy?

In 1987 I made a video about David Powless of the Oneida Nation. He had received a National Science Foundation grant a few years earlier to recycle steel waste, and as the first Native American to receive such a prestigious grant, he shared that he was feeling pretty cocky. He said that when he first approached the enormous mound of steel waste, his inclination was to think of it as something to be overcome, battled against. Then he told me, “I realized that the waste was not an enemy to be conquered. It was an orphan that had gotten separated from the circle of life. My job was to bring it back to the circle of life.”

I was very touched by these words. This concept of waste seemed like a way to recycle damaged, toxic places in the mind as well as in the environment. I spent many years thinking about how I might put such an idea into practice. I was attracted to the work of Joanna Macy, the great writer and teacher of transforming grief to empowerment; to Daniel Dancer, an artist who makes creative sculptures at broken places; and to a man named Pete Maniscalco, who would meditate in front of a nuclear power plant. My question was: How could I create some kind of practice that would change a place that is ugly into a beautiful place, a place that is ignored or even despised into a place that is loved once again and tended lovingly?

I guided a week-long vigil at an old-growth clear-cut forest, did a ceremony near Ground Zero in New York after September 11, and led a program in a forest that had been burned by a massive fire. But I wanted to create some way of giving to hurt places that people could do at any time in any place–a handy, accessible tool that anybody could use. So I founded Radical Joy for Hard Times in 2009.  Read more…